Publications by authors named "Alexandros Karamanlidis"

11 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Genetic and demographic history define a conservation strategy for earth's most endangered pinniped, the Mediterranean monk seal Monachus monachus.

Sci Rep 2021 01 11;11(1):373. Epub 2021 Jan 11.

Department of Biology, Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana, Večna pot 111, 1000, Ljubljana, Slovenia.

The Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) is a flagship species for marine conservation, but important aspects of its life history remain unknown. Concerns over imminent extinction motivated a nuclear DNA study of the species in its largest continuous subpopulation in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Despite recent evidence of partial subpopulation recovery, we demonstrate that there is no reason for complacency, as the species still shares several traits that are characteristic of a critically endangered species: Mediterranean monk seals in the eastern Mediterranean survive in three isolated and genetically depauperate population clusters, with small effective population sizes and high levels of inbreeding. Our results indicated male philopatry over short distances, which is unexpected for a polygynous mammal. Such a pattern may be explained by the species' unique breeding behavior, in which males defend aquatic territories near breeding sites, while females are often forced to search for new pupping areas. Immediate action is necessary to reverse the downward spiral of population decline, inbreeding accumulation and loss of genetic diversity. We propose concrete conservation measures for the Mediterranean monk seal focusing on reducing anthropogenic threats, increasing the population size and genetic diversity, and thus improving the long-term prospects of survival.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-79712-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7801404PMC
January 2021

Ungulate management in European national parks: Why a more integrated European policy is needed.

J Environ Manage 2020 Apr 31;260:110068. Epub 2020 Jan 31.

Department of Visitor Management and National Park Monitoring, Bavarian Forest National Park, Freyunger Straβe 2, 94481, Grafenau, Germany; Chair of Wildlife Ecology and Management, Albert Ludwigs University Freiburg, Tennenbacher Straβe 4, 79106, Freiburg, Germany.

1. Primary objectives of national parks usually include both, the protection of natural processes and species conservation. When these objectives conflict, as occurs because of the cascading effects of large mammals (i.e., ungulates and large carnivores) on lower trophic levels, park managers have to decide upon the appropriate management while considering various local circumstances. 2. To analyse if ungulate management strategies are in accordance with the objectives defined for protected areas, we assessed the current status of ungulate management across European national parks using the naturalness concept and identified the variables that influence the management. 3. We collected data on ungulate management from 209 European national parks in 29 countries by means of a large-scale questionnaire survey. Ungulate management in the parks was compared by creating two naturalness scores. The first score reflects ungulate and large carnivore species compositions, and the second evaluates human intervention on ungulate populations. We then tested whether the two naturalness score categories are influenced by the management objectives, park size, years since establishment, percentage of government-owned land, and human impact on the environment (human influence index) using two generalized additive mixed models. 4. In 67.9% of the national parks, wildlife is regulated by culling (40.2%) or hunting (10.5%) or both (17.2%). Artificial feeding occurred in 81.3% of the national parks and only 28.5% of the national parks had a non-intervention zone covering at least 75% of the area. Furthermore, ungulate management differed greatly among the different countries, likely because of differences in hunting traditions and cultural and political backgrounds. Ungulate management was also influenced by park size, human impact on the landscape, and national park objectives, but after removing these variables from the full model the reduced models only showed a small change in the deviance explained. In areas with higher anthropogenic pressure, wildlife diversity tended to be lower and a higher number of domesticated species tended to be present. Human intervention (culling and artificial feeding) was lower in smaller national parks and when park objectives followed those set by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 5. Our study shows that many European national parks do not fulfil the aims of protected area management as set by IUCN guidelines. In contrast to the USA and Canada, Europe currently has no common ungulate management policy within national parks. This lack of a common policy together with differences in species composition, hunting traditions, and cultural or political context has led to differences in ungulate management among European countries. To fulfil the aims and objectives of national parks and to develop ungulate management strategies further, we highlight the importance of creating a more integrated European ungulate management policy to meet the aims of national parks.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2020.110068DOI Listing
April 2020

Survival and divergence in a small group: The extraordinary genomic history of the endangered Apennine brown bear stragglers.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2017 11 24;114(45):E9589-E9597. Epub 2017 Oct 24.

Department of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, University of Ferrara, 44121 Ferrara, Italy;

About 100 km east of Rome, in the central Apennine Mountains, a critically endangered population of ∼50 brown bears live in complete isolation. Mating outside this population is prevented by several 100 km of bear-free territories. We exploited this natural experiment to better understand the gene and genomic consequences of surviving at extremely small population size. We found that brown bear populations in Europe lost connectivity since Neolithic times, when farming communities expanded and forest burning was used for land clearance. In central Italy, this resulted in a 40-fold population decline. The overall genomic impact of this decline included the complete loss of variation in the mitochondrial genome and along long stretches of the nuclear genome. Several private and deleterious amino acid changes were fixed by random drift; predicted effects include energy deficit, muscle weakness, anomalies in cranial and skeletal development, and reduced aggressiveness. Despite this extreme loss of diversity, Apennine bear genomes show nonrandom peaks of high variation, possibly maintained by balancing selection, at genomic regions significantly enriched for genes associated with immune and olfactory systems. Challenging the paradigm of increased extinction risk in small populations, we suggest that random fixation of deleterious alleles () can be an important driver of divergence in isolation, () can be tolerated when balancing selection prevents random loss of variation at important genes, and () is followed by or results directly in favorable behavioral changes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1707279114DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5692547PMC
November 2017

Assessing SNP genotyping of noninvasively collected wildlife samples using microfluidic arrays.

Sci Rep 2017 09 7;7(1):10768. Epub 2017 Sep 7.

Conservation Genetics Group, Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt, Clamecystraße 12, 63571, Gelnhausen, Germany.

Noninvasively collected samples are a common source of DNA in wildlife genetic studies. Currently, single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping using microfluidic arrays is emerging as an easy-to-use and cost-effective methodology. Here we assessed the performance of microfluidic SNP arrays in genotyping noninvasive samples from grey wolves, European wildcats and brown bears, and we compared results with traditional microsatellite genotyping. We successfully SNP-genotyped 87%, 80% and 97% of the wolf, cat and bear samples, respectively. Genotype recovery was higher based on SNPs, while both marker types identified the same individuals and provided almost identical estimates of pairwise differentiation. We found that samples for which all SNP loci were scored had no disagreements across the three replicates (except one locus in a wolf sample). Thus, we argue that call rate (amplification success) can be used as a proxy for genotype quality, allowing the reduction of replication effort when call rate is high. Furthermore, we used cycle threshold values of real-time PCR to guide the choice of protocols for SNP amplification. Finally, we provide general guidelines for successful SNP genotyping of degraded DNA using microfluidic technology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-10647-wDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5589735PMC
September 2017

Trace element concentrations in the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Sci Total Environ 2017 Jan 27;576:528-537. Epub 2016 Oct 27.

Large Pelagic Vertebrate Group, Department Veterinary Medical Sciences, University of Bologna, Viale Vespucci 2, 47042 Cesenatico (FC), Italy. Electronic address:

The Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) is one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world. The biggest sub-population of the species survives in Greece, where understanding the effects of pollution on the survival of the species has been identified as a national research and conservation priority. From 1990 to 2013 we collected tissue samples from 59 deceased monk seals in order to: (i) Define the concentration of trace elements (As, Pb, Cd, Hg, Se, Cr, Ni) in three different matrices (i.e., blubber, liver and kidney), (ii) Determine whether differences in trace element concentrations are age- or gender-related, (iii) Evaluate the potential effects of these pollutants. The study recorded differences in trace element concentrations among matrices, but in general, trace element exposure in Mediterranean monk seals in Greece was low and within the non-acutely toxic levels for Pinnipeds. Only arsenic concentrations were at the upper limit of the normal range observed in other marine mammals (0.69±0.55mg/kg w.w. in blubber, 0.79±0.62mg/kg w.w. in liver and 0.79±0.59mg/kg w.w. in kidney). We recorded also exceptionally high Hg concentrations in a single adult female (24.88mg/kg w.w.). Age- and gender-related differences were also recorded and were due to various biological, ecological and chemical factors. Based on the results of the study, potentially adverse effects on the immune and endocrine system of the Mediterranean monk seal from some pollutants (e.g., As, Cd, Se, Ni, Cr) cannot be ruled out, which may expose the Mediterranean seal population in Greece to epizootics and stochastic phenomena of mass mortality. It is therefore of utmost importance that pollutant monitoring becomes an integral component of the standard monitoring protocol of the endangered Mediterranean monk seal in the eastern Mediterranean.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.10.142DOI Listing
January 2017

Genome-wide analyses suggest parallel selection for universal traits may eclipse local environmental selection in a highly mobile carnivore.

Ecol Evol 2015 Oct 22;5(19):4410-25. Epub 2015 Sep 22.

Mammal Research Institute Polish Academy of Sciences ul. Waszkiewicza 1 PL 17-230 Bialowieza Poland.

Ecological and environmental heterogeneity can produce genetic differentiation in highly mobile species. Accordingly, local adaptation may be expected across comparatively short distances in the presence of marked environmental gradients. Within the European continent, wolves (Canis lupus) exhibit distinct north-south population differentiation. We investigated more than 67-K single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) loci for signatures of local adaptation in 59 unrelated wolves from four previously identified population clusters (northcentral Europe n = 32, Carpathian Mountains n = 7, Dinaric-Balkan n = 9, Ukrainian Steppe n = 11). Our analyses combined identification of outlier loci with findings from genome-wide association study of individual genomic profiles and 12 environmental variables. We identified 353 candidate SNP loci. We examined the SNP position and neighboring megabase (1 Mb, one million bases) regions in the dog (C. lupus familiaris) genome for genes potentially under selection, including homologue genes in other vertebrates. These regions included functional genes for, for example, temperature regulation that may indicate local adaptation and genes controlling for functions universally important for wolves, including olfaction, hearing, vision, and cognitive functions. We also observed strong outliers not associated with any of the investigated variables, which could suggest selective pressures associated with other unmeasured environmental variables and/or demographic factors. These patterns are further supported by the examination of spatial distributions of the SNPs associated with universally important traits, which typically show marked differences in allele frequencies among population clusters. Accordingly, parallel selection for features important to all wolves may eclipse local environmental selection and implies long-term separation among population clusters.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.1695DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4667828PMC
October 2015

Stable isotopes confirm a coastal diet for critically endangered Mediterranean monk seals.

Isotopes Environ Health Stud 2014 11;50(3):332-42. Epub 2014 Jul 11.

a MOm/Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk seal , Athens , Greece.

Understanding the ecology and behaviour of endangered species is essential for developing effective management and conservation strategies. We used stable isotope analysis to investigate the foraging behaviour of critically endangered Mediterranean monk seals (Monachus monachus) in Greece. We measured carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios (expressed as δ(13)C and δ(15)N values, respectively) derived from the hair of deceased adult and juvenile seals and the muscle of their known prey to quantify their diets. We tested the hypothesis that monk seals primarily foraged for prey that occupy coastal habitats in Greece. We compared isotope values from seal hair to their coastal and pelagic prey (after correcting all prey for isotopic discrimination) and used these isotopic data and a stable isotope mixing model to estimate the proportion of coastal and pelagic resources consumed by seals. As predicted, we found that seals had similar δ(13)C values as many coastal prey species and higher δ(13)C values than pelagic species; these results, in conjunction with mean dietary estimates (coastal=61 % vs. pelagic=39 %), suggest that seals have a diverse diet comprising prey from multiple trophic levels that primarily occupy the coast. Marine resource managers should consider using the results from this study to inform the future management of coastal habitats in Greece to protect Mediterranean monk seals.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10256016.2014.931845DOI Listing
March 2015

Ecoregion-based conservation planning in the Mediterranean: dealing with large-scale heterogeneity.

PLoS One 2013 14;8(10):e76449. Epub 2013 Oct 14.

Institute of Marine Biological Resources and Inland Waters, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, Ag. Kosmas, Greece ; ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

Spatial priorities for the conservation of three key Mediterranean habitats, i.e. seagrass Posidonia oceanica meadows, coralligenous formations, and marine caves, were determined through a systematic planning approach. Available information on the distribution of these habitats across the entire Mediterranean Sea was compiled to produce basin-scale distribution maps. Conservation targets for each habitat type were set according to European Union guidelines. Surrogates were used to estimate the spatial variation of opportunity cost for commercial, non-commercial fishing, and aquaculture. Marxan conservation planning software was used to evaluate the comparative utility of two planning scenarios: (a) a whole-basin scenario, referring to selection of priority areas across the whole Mediterranean Sea, and (b) an ecoregional scenario, in which priority areas were selected within eight predefined ecoregions. Although both scenarios required approximately the same total area to be protected in order to achieve conservation targets, the opportunity cost differed between them. The whole-basin scenario yielded a lower opportunity cost, but the Alboran Sea ecoregion was not represented and priority areas were predominantly located in the Ionian, Aegean, and Adriatic Seas. In comparison, the ecoregional scenario resulted in a higher representation of ecoregions and a more even distribution of priority areas, albeit with a higher opportunity cost. We suggest that planning at the ecoregional level ensures better representativeness of the selected conservation features and adequate protection of species, functional, and genetic diversity across the basin. While there are several initiatives that identify priority areas in the Mediterranean Sea, our approach is novel as it combines three issues: (a) it is based on the distribution of habitats and not species, which was rarely the case in previous efforts, (b) it considers spatial variability of cost throughout this socioeconomically heterogeneous basin, and (c) it adopts ecoregions as the most appropriate level for large-scale planning.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0076449PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3796553PMC
June 2014

North-South differentiation and a region of high diversity in European wolves (Canis lupus).

PLoS One 2013 11;8(10):e76454. Epub 2013 Oct 11.

Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland.

European wolves (Canis lupus) show population genetic structure in the absence of geographic barriers, and across relatively short distances for this highly mobile species. Additional information on the location of and divergence between population clusters is required, particularly because wolves are currently recolonizing parts of Europe. We evaluated genetic structure in 177 wolves from 11 countries using over 67K single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) loci. The results supported previous findings of an isolated Italian population with lower genetic diversity than that observed across other areas of Europe. Wolves from the remaining countries were primarily structured in a north-south axis, with Croatia, Bulgaria, and Greece (Dinaric-Balkan) differentiated from northcentral wolves that included individuals from Finland, Latvia, Belarus, Poland and Russia. Carpathian Mountain wolves in central Europe had genotypes intermediate between those identified in northcentral Europe and the Dinaric-Balkan cluster. Overall, individual genotypes from northcentral Europe suggested high levels of admixture. We observed high diversity within Belarus, with wolves from western and northern Belarus representing the two most differentiated groups within northcentral Europe. Our results support the presence of at least three major clusters (Italy, Carpathians, Dinaric-Balkan) in southern and central Europe. Individuals from Croatia also appeared differentiated from wolves in Greece and Bulgaria. Expansion from glacial refugia, adaptation to local environments, and human-related factors such as landscape fragmentation and frequent killing of wolves in some areas may have contributed to the observed patterns. Our findings can help inform conservation management of these apex predators and the ecosystems of which they are part.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0076454PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3795770PMC
August 2014

The structure of Mediterranean rocky reef ecosystems across environmental and human gradients, and conservation implications.

PLoS One 2012 29;7(2):e32742. Epub 2012 Feb 29.

National Geographic Society, Washington, DC, United States of America.

Historical exploitation of the Mediterranean Sea and the absence of rigorous baselines makes it difficult to evaluate the current health of the marine ecosystems and the efficacy of conservation actions at the ecosystem level. Here we establish the first current baseline and gradient of ecosystem structure of nearshore rocky reefs at the Mediterranean scale. We conducted underwater surveys in 14 marine protected areas and 18 open access sites across the Mediterranean, and across a 31-fold range of fish biomass (from 3.8 to 118 g m(-2)). Our data showed remarkable variation in the structure of rocky reef ecosystems. Multivariate analysis showed three alternative community states: (1) large fish biomass and reefs dominated by non-canopy algae, (2) lower fish biomass but abundant native algal canopies and suspension feeders, and (3) low fish biomass and extensive barrens, with areas covered by turf algae. Our results suggest that the healthiest shallow rocky reef ecosystems in the Mediterranean have both large fish and algal biomass. Protection level and primary production were the only variables significantly correlated to community biomass structure. Fish biomass was significantly larger in well-enforced no-take marine reserves, but there were no significant differences between multi-use marine protected areas (which allow some fishing) and open access areas at the regional scale. The gradients reported here represent a trajectory of degradation that can be used to assess the health of any similar habitat in the Mediterranean, and to evaluate the efficacy of marine protected areas.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0032742PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3290621PMC
July 2012

High prevalence of smoking in Northern Greece.

Prim Care Respir J 2006 Apr 28;15(2):92-7. Epub 2006 Feb 28.

Pulmonary Clinic, Aristotle University of Thessalonica, and the Laboratory for the Investigation of Environmental Diseases, G. Papanicolaou General Hospital, Exochi, Thessalonica, 57010 Greece.

Aim: To investigate the prevalence of smoking in the general population and in specific population sub-groups in Northern Greece.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted during the period 1999-2001 on a 5% sample (23,840) of those people aged between 21 to 80 out of a total general population of 653,249. 21,854/23,840 general population subjects were interviewed. In addition, we interviewed 9,276 high school students, 1,072 medical students, 597 medical doctors within the National Health System, 825 teachers, and 624 subjects who regularly exercised in a privately-owned gym. A specially modified ICRF study group questionnaire was used.

Results: 34.4% of the general population sample were current smokers (47.8% of males and 21.6% of females). Smoking prevalence rates in the population sub-groups were: 29.6% of high school students; 40.7% of medical students; 44.9% of medical doctors; 46.4% of teachers; and 36.9% of the gym group.

Conclusion: The prevalence of smoking in Northern Greece is high. High school and medical students present with high smoking rates, and the same situation is observed in medical doctors and teachers. An intensification of preventive antismoking measures is required.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pcrj.2006.01.004DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6730692PMC
April 2006